The Blues Scale: Every Guitarists Best Friend

You are a guitarist – the blues comes naturally to you. I can bet all of your favorite guitarists are masters of the blues, in their own unique way. Now it is your turn.

Use this lesson to:

  • Learn basic theory.
  • Tune your ears to this scale’s unique sound.
  • Know how to improvise with it musically.
  • Have fun while you learn!

First of all, let me clear this up:

The Pentatonic Scale vs Blues Scale – “Are they the same thing”?

Nearly. The ‘pent’ in pentatonic means 5 – it has 5 notes. The blues scale has a sixth note added, the “blues note.” Adding this extra note immediately gives you that ‘bluesy’ sound.

Instant blueseyness? Awesome!

You can check out my minor pentatonic lesson here for some cool modern concepts, otherwise lets continue on. I am now going to run you through the basic ‘make up; of the blues scale. Later on I will spice things up with some cool hybrid jazz-blues scales.

The Blues Scale Example

blues scale

The Blues Note

What is this fabled note? The blues note is simple a passing chromatic note between the 4th and 5th. I colored it green in the example above

Below is how to play the Blues Scale on guitar. Numbers indicate what finger to use (1: first finger, 2: second finger, etc). The White circle is the root (or home) note of your Blues Scale.

blues scale blues scale

I Play Jazz. Why do I Need to Learn the Blues scale?

Jazz is a descendant European harmony, African and Latin rhythms and Blues. Learn the blues scale in and out, and you will be a better jazz player. It is as easy as that! I often find myself revisiting blues guitarists such as BB King or Stevie Ray Vaughn to seek out inspiration.

Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell were masters of the blues, of course they didn’t sound like Albert King but they absolutely knew their way around the blues scale in their own unique way. Plus, the blues scale is really easy to play on the guitar.

When to Use the Blues Scale

  • 12 bar blues
  • min7 chords
  • tonic dom7 chords
  • maj7 chords (this will sound “nasty”)

A few guidelines for using the Blues Scale:

  • It will sound most ‘inside’ on tonic minor 7th chords. So if I play a Cm7 chord, you play the C blues scale.
  • It sounds great on Dom7 chords. This is the typical 12 bar blues scenario – I’ll play a C7, you rock out on the C blues scale.
  • The blues scale over a tonic major 7th chord sounds crunchy. But crunchy is good (depending on the musical situation). You play C blues scale over my C maj7. Listen to that CRUNCH!

Taking the Blues Scale Further

The cool thing about music is you can combine scales to create hybrids. The blues scale blends well with any minor scale, as well as the Mixolydian Mode.

Here are 3 cool things to try out:

  1. Add in a 9 (or 2nd)
  2. Add in a natural 13 (or 6th)
  3. From the b3, bend or slide up to the major 3rd.

Think of the blues scale as your flour and water. Add is some sugar and spice with other scales and notes. No blues guitarists I know uses purely just the blues scale. Find your own mix of notes and scales to create your own sound. My major blues scale lesson is a great place to start exploring this concept, check it out now.

Blues Scale Summary

ScaleMinor Blues Scale
ChordMin7, dom7
NotesR, b3, 4, #4, 5, b7
C ExampleC, Eb, F, F#, G, Bb
Potential added notes9th, 13th, major 3rd
Sam's TipThe Famous Blues Scale, check out those extra notes to add more flavor to this guy.

That concludes my lesson on the Blues Scale. You did great! Once you have a basic grasp on the blues scale, be sure to check out those other flavors you can add on. The fun never stops :)

Thanks for checking out this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions.

~ Sam Blakelock | pickupjazz.com

 

 

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